1861/1862: Moving Time

Mary Clark and the children move to Milwaukee

On July 20, 1860, the eighth federal decennial census recorded Mary Clark and her family living together on their Mequon farm. Less than a year later, on May 15, 1861, eldest daughter Caroline Clark married William W. Woodward and, presumably, left the Clark house to start their new life together. By the next federal census—June 1, 1870—Mary Clark, her six youngest daughters, one son-in-law, one grandchild, and one future-son-in-law, would be enumerated together in Mary’s home in Milwaukee.

What happened to the Clarks between July, 1860, and June, 1870? Ozaukee County land records show that Mary and her children did not finally sell the Mequon land, stone house, barn, and other structures until April, 1872. Catherine Doyle, matriarch of Mequon’s Doyle family was the buyer. Two years earlier, the 1870 federal census shows that Catherine Doyle, her husband John, and their family were already farming on the old Jonathan M. Clark farm. It appears that Mary Clark had rented or leased the Clark farm to the Doyles and, presumably, used the income to support her family.

So when did the Clarks move to Milwaukee? Did they buy a house, rent, or move in with Mary’s father, Peter Turck? To find out, we need to consult a mundane but very useful resource, the City Directory.

City Directories

Starting in the late-1700s, many American cities began to publish annual city directories. These are the predecessors to the once similarly useful and now virtually extinct telephone book and Yellow Pages (explanatory links added for anyone born after 2000 or so). In the 19th-century, city directories

[…] were created for salesmen, merchants, and other interested in contacting residents of an area. They are arranged alphabetically giving lists of names and addresses. These often list the adult residents of a city or area.

The most helpful directories for genealogical research are city and county directories of local residents and businesses. These are generally published annually and may include an individual’s address, occupation, spouse’s name, and other helpful facts.


Milwaukee City Directories

Milwaukee began to publish city directories in 1847. The Milwaukee Public Library has a complete collection, in various print and microform formats, in the Frank P. Zeidler Humanities Room. You’ll need to go there (once it re-opens) for the 1847 to 1860 city directories, but the 1861 and later directories may be found elsewhere, including pay sites such as Fold3.com and Ancestry.com. The ldsgenealogy.com site has a good roundup of available Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, city directories here. For more information on the local history holdings in the Zeidler Room, click here.

When did Mary and family move to the city?

We know Mary and her family were in Mequon in mid-1860. For some reason, neither Mary Clark nor her father Peter Turck are found in the 1861 Milwaukee city directory. Perhaps Mary and her children were still in Mequon, packing up the farm, or perhaps had already moved to Milwaukee, but were missed by the directory compilers.

But one year later, on page 63, lines 7 and 8, of the Milwaukee City Directory for 1862, compiled by A. Bailey and published by Starr and Son, we find…

Not one, but TWO women named “Clark Mrs. Mary” are listed in the 1862 directory. One living at 474 Jefferson, and the other residing on the west side of Fifth, south of Walnut1. Was one of these two women former Mequon resident Mary Clark, widow of Jonathan? If so, which one?

The answer can be found on page 272, line 6, of the same directory:

It’s Mary Clark’s father, Peter Turck, also living at 474 Jefferson.. And listed on the line above Peter Turck is his sixth child and next-oldest son, James Byron Turck. Jas. B. Turck is working as a bookkeeper and living on his own in a house on the south side of Pleasant, east of Cass.

Peter Turck had lived in the city since 1854 or so; why he or son James B. Turck were omitted from the 1861 directory is not known. It may be because Peter (and James?) Turck changed residences in 1861/62, following the April, 1861, deaths of Peter’s second wife, Christina, and their only child, eleven-year-old Lucinda. According to the death notice in the April 20, 1861 Milwaukee Sentinel, Christina’s funeral was at the family home, 372 Maine [Street].

Hard times at hand…

We lack documents that would explain exactly when and why Mary Clark brought her family to Milwaukee, circa 1861-1862. Perhaps economic pressure made her relocate?

Mary Clark’s 1860, 1870 and 1880 censuses—and other documents, such as her 1881 probate file—show that she capably managed her finances throughout most her life, sometimes borrowing from—or lending to—her children, but maintaining a solid financial base even during years of national crisis. After the premature death of her husband Jonathan M. Clark in 1857, Mary kept the farm in business and provided a pleasant, middle-class life for her family. So if not for financial reasons, why did she leave the Clark house in Mequon and move to the city?

It’s probable that a combination of stresses made the move desirable, or even necessary. Mary’s father Peter Turck was 64 years old and had just lost his young second wife and their only child. All of Peter’s other children—except the youngest, Benjamin2—had long since married and moved from the Turck home.

Mary’s eldest child, Caroline, married and moved out of the Clark house in spring, 1861. During her long and accomplished life, Caroline demonstrated that she was an extremely intelligent, hard working and vigorous woman. It’s likely that she had been an invaluable help to Mary, helping to manage the farm in the years following Jonathan Clark’s death. With Caroline gone, and seven children between the ages of 19 and 5 still at home, Mary may have decided to remain a farm owner, but not an active farmer.

Compared to rural Mequon, Milwaukee offered more and better possibilities for schooling, employment and, perhaps, matchmaking. In future posts, we will follow each Clark child to see what opportunities they took advantage of, who they found for life partners, and we will follow the ups and downs of Mary Turck Clark as she navigates a number of serious challenges to her family’s well-being and her own health.

And the Civil War began on April 12, 1861.


  1. Disambiguation note: This second “Mrs. Mary Clark” appears in other Milwaukee city directories of this era. Some years ago I looked into this and, as I recall, she ran a tavern and did other work at various times. As far as I know, she is not related to Mary Turck Clark in any way.

    Interestingly, in the 1860s through 1880s Milwaukee city directories we will also run into other women that share names with some of the Clark family. There was another “Jenny/Jennie Clark” and another “Persie/Persis,” too. We will straighten those out when we come to them.

  2. Where was Mary’s brother Benjamin Turck in 1860-1862? There is a gap in the records. He was living with Mary and the children in Mequon in July, 1860. He enlisted in the Union army on August 30, 1862 and served for the duration of the war. My guess is that from mid-1860 to August, 1862 he remained with his sister Mary and her children, and by 1862 all were living at 474 Jefferson, with Peter Turck.

    Or, it’s possible that 22 year old Benjamin had tired of living with Mary and her busy brood and had moved in with older brother James. It’s plausible, but not supported by any evidence, pro or con.

UPDATES, July 29, 2020:

  • Reader and Clark House Museum director Nina Look reminded me that I forgot to mention Fred Beckmann, who farmed the old Clark farm from c. 1868-1873. I’ll have more on Fred Beckmann and try and answer “who lived and worked on the Clark farm in the 1860s” in my next post.
  • Reader Laura Rexroth asked interesting questions about—among other things—city directories, in particular how they were assembled and distributed. See my answers to Laura’s questions and the publisher preface to the 1862 city directory, below.

Preface to Milwaukee City Directory for 1862, compiled by A. Bailey, Starr and Son, Milwaukee,1862.

14 thoughts on “1861/1862: Moving Time

    • I forgot Fred Beckmann!

      Yes, Fred lived on the Clark farm circa 1868-1873 (and was an interesting Cedarburg character, too). Look for more on Fred Beckmann, the Doyles and “who worked and lived on the Clark farm in the early-1860s?” in Friday’s post.

      Thanks for the reminder, Nina!


  1. Were city directories distributed to everyone in the city limits? Also were you listed by request, or could you ask to not be listed?

    Did Mary and her family have any reason to believe that living in the country would cause a problem for them when the Civil War began?


    • Excellent questions.

      You know, I’ve looked at dozens and dozens of City Directories, and never thought much about your first questions. So I went back to the online edition of the Milwaukee City Directory for 1862, and found the publisher’s preface. It answers many of your questions, and I have added it as a postscript to today’s blog post.

      It seems that the publisher sent out a crew of information gatherers to knock on doors and see who lived or worked where, and how they wanted to be listed. I suppose you could be “unlisted” just by not telling the data-collector anything. The directories also featured a lot of advertising, of various sizes, involving simple type-only ads as well as elaborate woodcut illustrations. I assume these ads were purchased by the various businesses and professionals and that these are the “patrons” referred to by the publisher. I can’t imagine that the directories were delivered free of charge to all city residents. My guess is that the advertisers/patrons probably got a free copy; beyond that, I don’t know.

      And by the way, for any readers that use 19th-century city directories for their research: don’t skip over the ads! They are wonderful sources of information on so many aspects of life and business of the day. And the prefatory material is often full of useful info on city schools, government, transportation options and routes, and much, much more.

      I don’t think country life, per se, was a problem during the war years. But for Mary Clark and the Clark farm, I suspect the main foreseeable issue would be manpower for farming. Mary was a widow and still had seven children at home, six daughters and only one son to do the plowing, weeding, harvesting, and so on. In past years, Mary had used hired men to help farm, but it’s possible that she was concerned that with the volunteer spirit in the air—and the possibility of a military draft looming—able-bodied men might not be available much longer for hired work. We really don’t know, but these seem like reasonable surmises.


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